Seats for the old and young

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The Independent Travel
GLADYS GLASCOE'S difficulties in getting a seat near the emergency exit on a British Airways flight from Copenhagen to London (The Traveller, 9 January) has produced a stream of sympathetic letters. However, one reader says that the problem is really the explanation given by the airline.

Several readers have praised the detailed written explanation offered by US airline Northwest: exit row passengers are given a list of duties required of them in the event of an emergency. However, while Mrs A C Fenn, of Twickenham, praises the airline's clear statement of policy about who can or cannot sit in the exit row, she wonders whether airlines might not try a little 'positive discrimination' in favour of older travellers. 'They often find the lack of legroom uncomfortable and even painful on long flights.'

Commander Angus Esrkine, of Edinburgh, was the survivor of a Lan Chile BAe 146 crash in the Beagle Channel on 20 February 1991 in which 20 people drowned. 'So nowadays when I fly I take careful note of where the exits are and how to get them open: indeed I often ask for a seat in the relevant row.' He spoke to a chief steward of a BA plane who said very young or very old passengers are not allowed to occupy the next seat to an exit.

Anne Brown-Robins, of Alton, Hampshire, is happy 'to think airlines make a positive choice of passengers they sit next to exits. I don't believe it is because they want to increase the chances of younger people escaping to the detriment of older, less agile passengers as much as the responsibility for opening the emergency exits will fall to those sitting next to the door.'

Meanwhile, Andrew Pendleton, of York, complains about the problems faced by people with child buggies. Airlines take them from you at the door of the aircraft with the promise that they will kept in the cabin. 'They are promptly put in the hold. This usually means that the buggy can only be reclaimed at the baggage reclaim area. At airports like Heathrow this guarantees parents of young children a difficult walk.'

Plane speaking RACHEL and Andrew McGrath, of Cockermouth, Cumbria, aged 13 and nine, point out that the drawing of an aircraft on our Departures column lacks tail wings. 'We have noticed this for weeks now: does this mean that your departure never gets off the ground?' No, it means that we are forever chasing our tail . . .

Prix Arnold WHY do the French like those PA systems that blare out music in the streets. In Calais before Christmas, the PA system was offering an ear-splitting mixture of Christmas music and shopping information.

I was standing in the queue at the check-out desk of the Maison de la Presse when a woman with a radio mike broadcasting on the PA system appeared. There was a prize, she said, for the first person who could tell her who had just won the Prix Goncourt. Since there was a display in front of me supplying this information (Texaco by Chamoiseau - or perhaps it was Chamoiseau by Texaco, I can't decipher my contemporaneous note), it was hardly a difficult question.

My prize was a video of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator 2 - in French. The first person who writes to me with the real-life holiday resort setting of Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (shown on TV at Christmas) will receive Terminator 2 by return of post.